Inductively coupled plasma (ICP) following aqua regia digestion and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) are both geochemical techniques used to determine ‘total’ concentrations of elements in soil. The aim of this study is to compare these techniques, identify elements for which inconsistencies occur and investigate why they arise. A study area (∼14,000 km2) with a variety of total concentration controls and a large geochemical dataset (n = 7950) was selected. Principal component analysis determined underlying variance in a dataset composed of both geogenic and anthropogenic elements. Where inconsistencies between the techniques were identified, further numerical and spatial analysis was completed. The techniques are more consistent for elements of geogenic sources and lead, whereas other elements of anthropogenic sources show less consistency within rural samples. XRF is affected by sample matrix, while the form of element affects ICP concentrations. Depending on their use in environmental studies, different outcomes would be expected from the techniques employed, suggesting the choice of analytical technique for geochemical analyses may be more critical than realised.